FirstFT: US undermines hopes of diplomatic solution to Ukraine crisis

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The United States has dashed hopes that Moscow wants to find a diplomatic way out of the Ukraine crisis as officials warned that the Russian military this week continued to step up plans to invade its neighbor.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, yesterday expressed hope that the standoff could be resolved peacefully when he said Moscow was ready to continue talking to the West about its security concerns and that there might still be a “way forward” in negotiations with the west.

But officials in Washington said the comments, which were made during a televised meeting with Vladimir Putin, were at odds with the progress of military preparations for an assault.

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to a call that “there remains a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to withdraw from its threats to Ukraine”.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, who is due to speak with Putin today after meeting his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday, stressed that Ukraine’s NATO membership was “not on the agenda of the day,” a potential attempt to assuage Russia’s security concerns. Scholz should come to the meeting with clear goals and messages, writes our editorial board.

Share your thoughts on the Ukraine-Russia conflict with me on [email protected]. I will perhaps present them in a future edition of the newsletter. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa — Jennifer

1. Buyout firms pay “dwarf” investment bankers Top private equity firms set aside more than double to pay every employee last month — $2 million including benefits — than major investment banks, according to Financial Times calculations, pointing to a shift to the less regulated corner of Wall Street.

“It’s a different landscape than five or 10 years ago when the banks were rocking and rolling” – Alan Johnson, Johnson Associates

2. TikTok is poaching Big Tech content moderators The Chinese-owned short form video app ByteDance has hundreds poached content moderators in Europe from outsourcing companies that service social media rivals such as Facebook as it seeks to crack down on harmful content.

  • More on social media: Texas is suing Facebook parent Meta for billions of dollars, accusing it of harvesting and mining citizens’ biometric data through its since-shutdown facial recognition system without proper consent.

3. Ex-Goldman banker accused of pocketing millions in 1MDB scandal US prosecutors have accused Roger Ng, a former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, of pocketing millions in bribes from the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal, as his criminal trial began in New York yesterday. Ng, who pleaded not guilty, faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

4. BlockFi will pay a $100 million penalty on interest-bearing accounts US regulators have taken their first enforcement action on cryptocurrency lending, agreeing $100 million in settlements with the BlockFi platform to offer interest-bearing accounts without registering them as securities.

  • Opinion: The proliferation of technologies around digital currencies calls for better cross-border regulation, writes Cornell professor Eswar Prasad.

5. Demographic changes in the UK are boosting public finances Ministers will be under from afar less pressure to raise taxes in the coming years to pay for the costs of the country’s aging population due to falling birth rates, falling life expectancies and rising immigration, according to FT research.

Summary of coronavirus

The day ahead

GDP data EU, Poland and Hungary release fourth quarter gross domestic product figures. The bloc also has employment data and December merchandise trade figures.

Dubai Trade Negotiations Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, will hold talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, on the sidelines of the Expo 2020 World Expo on doubling bilateral trade.

business profits The accommodation specialist Airbnb, the gaming platform Roblox and the entertainment group ViacomCBS publish their quarterly results. Miner Glencore delivers preliminary annual results.

Stop Beny Steinmetz-Vale A final judgment will be handed down at the High Court in London in the legal battle between the billionaire and the Brazilian miner over a bankrupt iron ore joint venture in Guinea.

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French electoral polls The country will vote in two rounds in April on whether to give President Emmanuel Macron a second five-year term or hand over the leadership to another candidate, in an unpredictable election that could mark a rightward shift in politics French. See our tracker here.

Keeping asylum seekers in limbo is bad for everyone Even as the UK faces labor shortages, there are people who want to work but are barred from it: asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their claim. Forcing people to sit idly harms “human capital”, writes Sarah O’Connor.

Poor regional results hit Spain’s centre-right If all had gone as planned, Pablo Casado of the Popular Party would have regained his credentials as prime minister-in-waiting this week. Instead, voters instead sent a clear message to the center-right: if he wants to return to national power, he may have to do so with his far-right rival Vox.

You can’t hide from the jerks at work Are coworkers: a) great because you can pitch ideas as you head to a well-ventilated, sanitized bar for a drink? b) a fatality to tolerate? Or c) total shaking? Social psychologist Tessa West’s new book speaks directly to the fear that c) is the only honest answer.

Food

Food is both personal and universal, so River Café owner Ruth Rogers doesn’t have to work hard to get her famous topics opened up on her podcast River Cafe Table 4 for intimate, revealing and real conversations. Read Fiona Sturges’ review here.

Ruth Rogers, chef and owner of the River Café

Ruth Rogers, chef and owner of the River Café, hosts “River Café Table 4”

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